Q And Not U
n each of their three LP’s, the Washington DC quartet—and now trio—has had to radically alter their sound for reasons outside of the normal progression of a band’s working aesthetic. Between the first and second album, the group lost its bassist, making its composition a tougher affair that relied on increased inter-guitar dynamics. Now, with their third album, it seems like the injury that sidelined drummer John Davis in 2003 still pervades the band’s sound to a degree, further increasing the pressure on the two guitarists (Chris Richards and Harris Klahr) to bring the creative muscle to the table.
It’s not that Davis is totally absent from the recording, but compared to his previous muscular contribution to Different Damage, it’s hard to believe that you have things like drum machines making appearances on Power. But progression has always been the name of the game for this formative dance-punk group. Arriving a few years before the genre came into prominence, Q and Not U have always remained a few steps ahead of the game, and they continue to do so here.
But it’s not on the traditionally-styled dance-punk numbers that the group makes their mark, it’s the incredible sidelights like the one-minute long medieval inflected “District Night Prayer” and the slow-moving flute-led “Throw Back Your Head” or even the piano-stomper “Collect the Diamonds”. By showing their flexibility in songwriting and instrumental choices, the group goes towards creating a better album, or at the very least a more varied one.
Never fear, though, because Q And Not U hardly abandons their roots, bringing down the house in equal measure on the drum machine augmented “Beautiful Beats” and the manic “X-Polynation”, which does what Radio 4 was unable to do: mix politics and music in a way that doesn’t seem cloying. Add to this songs like “Passwords”, “Book of Flags”, and “Tag-Tag” and the end of the record nearly dispenses with the formal inventions of the opening half. When it’s this danceable, that’s not such a bad thing.
By shying away from punk-funk proper, Q and Not U have always stood slightly apart from the dreaded genre tag that has begun to define groups like !!! and The Rapture. The fact that the band has constantly reinvented itself in that time hasn’t hurt either. As such, Power is one more entry into an increasingly strong catalogue of widely varied danceable punk rock and should do little to disappoint fans.